In the years that steam products from overseas consumers came onto the market, the market has grown considerably and with it the steaming trends have come and gone.
In the current market, the tendency towards smaller, more compact and simpler devices has returned. With renewed interest in portable vaporizers, there has been an increase in closed sleeve systems such as JUUL, Bo, Phix, MYLE and others.
In an industry where high performance large appliances, unregulated modifications and high-end products dominated sales, are pod systems a fad or are they paving the way for the future of steam?
The answer may not be as clear as one would expect, as the steam product industry tends to develop rapidly and people's tastes vary in terms of products, but for Jeff Hirsch of Bi-County Distributors Inc, a New York-based company that does some wholesale business with steam products, closed tray systems are increasing and demand for them is swelling.
"I think this will be the future of these machines, and the reason I say this is because you see the tobacco companies jumping on board and coming out with their machines, and they look just like the machines they are now coming out," Hirsch said.
"Saline seems to be the hot thing right now," Hirsch continued. "You're seeing beginners use it, and people who have used mods are also using this in addition to their mods, and I think this [saltwater] is for everyone."
Nicotine salt is a processed form of nicotine from the tobacco plant that, according to vaping.com, an online resource dedicated to the vaping lifestyle, is more satisfying for many vapers than traditional freebase-nicotine e-liquids.
Salt nicotine in e-liquids is less inhaled due to its biocompatibility, which results in a more even blow in low-power devices and provides the user with a steam experience comparable to traditional cigarette smoking. Salt liquids also tend to have a higher nicotine concentration, which very quickly suppresses cravings.
"All the companies that have regular juice will prepare it in salt water, it looks like," Hirsch says.
Pat Dwyer, 27, seems inclined to believe the owner of the Bi-County distributors, although he has doubts about how long Salt Nic will be popular with consumers.
Dwyer, the founder of The Cloud Chemist, a New York-based e-liquid company, began mixing e-liquid in his room for hours in 2016 to perfect his taste in a certified laboratory, opening his own business and mixing his e-liquid flavours.
"I'm going to be launching salt-based nic juice for some of my most popular flavors to serve everyone based solely on the salt-nic-pod system," Dwyer said. "I want people to stop smoking cigarettes. that's the main goal in the end. “
Dwyer sees the appeal of closed pod systems because of their simplicity and overall comfort, but, unlike Hirsch, remains skeptical about the lasting performance of these increasingly popular devices.
"I think that the saltworks used will most likely be a fad that will last a long time, but I believe that ejuice for draining and for tanks will be the right choice in the long run, Dwyer said.
"I also think the return to higher nicotine could have a negative impact on the vaping industry, but as a capitalist, I generally see nothing wrong with salty juices."
For some Vapers, closed pod systems are only part of an evolutionary product line that is available to a wide audience. The importance of these products is undeniable as they have already impacted the Vaper and Vape stores where they are sold.
"Pod systems have a significant place in the vaping community," says Mike Rossi, a Long Island resident who started vaping in 2012.
"Salt Nic is the base ingredient for pod-based systems that are able to deliver high nicotine levels without the violent or harsh throat hit associated with similar amounts of traditional e-liquid," he added.
Pod systems are not without problems, says Rossi, who believes that they simply cannot be compared to rebuildable atomizers in the taste department. And yet, like any other emerging technology, these products seem to get better and better over time.
"Out of a number of high-end mouth-to-lung mods and RTAs, pod systems will never be as flavorful as these," Rossi said. "But with new products coming out seemingly every month, flavor and coil systems have gotten better and better."
When asked if he thought closed-pod systems were a fad, Rossi admits that "everything in vapor is a fad" because the market is "constantly flooded with new products."
"Pod-based systems are something I think will stick around," he said. "Almost every known vaper owns at least one pod-based system as a backup device when big clouds come up, which may not be practical."
Pod systems have been responsible for a blessing in selling the vapour stores that run them, and yet have excluded the sale of traditional e-liquid products, according to Hirsch, who says his vapour store, The Long Island Vaporium, has seen a decline in juice sales of 15 to 20 percent since the pod systems became increasingly popular.
The same goes for Cloud Vapor and Smoke, a vapor and tobacco store whose co-owner, Samet Bal (26), has watched the steam industry grow into his business from the beginning with numerous products for beginners and hardcore hobbyists. Pod systems and salt nicotine products are just the latest products in the industry.
"I'm especially excited to have salt-based equipment in my shop because many of my customers are not recreational boaters and can't produce large plumes of steam in commercial settings," Bal said. "These salt-based units tend to be much easier to maintain, much smaller to transport and easily accessible anywhere."
Bal does not believe that closed pod systems and Salt Nic are part of a fad and that for many consumers these new products are an endgame for users who "really want to replace the cigarette with a strikingly similar alternative".
"I definitely believe that the success of the salt nicotine market will affect the release of future products and demand in both the open and closed systems markets. It is difficult to say what impact it could have," Bal said.
"I suspect it is possible to bring dual-function devices to market that can handle salt and non-salt based products," he added.
Whether you choose high power vaper box mods, mechanical tube mods or salt nicotine devices, the underlying advantage, which is not influenced by the type of device, is that these users don't smoke cigarettes, and that's really the most important advantage anyone can ask for. From the cloud-comp type to the JUUL user, they have broken the cycle of cigarette consumption, and that's a big win.
"I've tried Cloud Chasing, Hemo (high-end mods only) and found that a mouth-to-lung pod system works best for me and my lifestyle," Rossi said.
"Ultimately, it helps you quit smoking. I like the simplicity of the systems; No conversions or adjustments to the battery. Just click on a pod and go. JUUL works for me. I say find what works best for you and stick with it. “